Open the purse for grown-ups

29th April 2005 at 01:00
The saga of Education Secretary Ruth Kelly's faux pas over FE shows no sign of letting up. Ferret readers will recall how she dropped a clanger by asking a senior civil servant exactly why parents sent their children to college.

Now, it appears, she made a similar gaffe at a Fabian Society meeting.

Asked what the Government was doing about adult education, she replied: "I think 3-19 education is enough to be going on with."

This from a woman Tony Blair guarantees will stay as Education Secretary - if his government remains in power.

Maybe this explains the comments of the former education and skills minister, John Healey, now at the Treasury. Adult education leaders recently chided him for putting cash into the national employer training programme, rather than general adult education.

To this, he replied that it was the only way the Treasury could get cash into adult education and skills. "When we give it to the Department for Education and Skills, it goes straight to schools," he explained.

'Twas ever thus. Sometimes further education officials have to go to extremes to extract cash from the department. Older readers may remember the last big FE cash crisis, which was around the notorious demand-led element (DLE). I won't go into technicalities but let's just say that DLE was about getting unlimited growth in student numbers on the cheap.

When Treasury officials realised that this was a bottomless purse, they cried foul.

The then Further Education Funding Council was ordered to pull the plug.

The DfES flatly refused to bail out the council - until the FEFC chair Bob Gunn quietly took the minister to one side at an Association of Colleges'

reception and told him the majority of the council will resign en masse - "and I will join them!"

As if by magic, an extra pound;69million appeared.

The LSC knows what to do.

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